Stokes 'delighted' to be cleared to play for England again

FILE - In this Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017 file photo, England cricketer Ben Stokes walks from the field following his innings of 93 runs in his match for the Canterbury Kings against the Otago Volts in a Twenty/20 match Christchurch, New Zealand. Prosecutors have charged England cricketer Ben Stokes with affray after a violent incident in Bristol in September, it was announced on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Baker, file)

LONDON — England allrounder Ben Stokes was cleared on Wednesday to resume his international career while he contests a charge of affray following a violent incident outside a nightclub in September.

Suspended by England while he was under investigation by police, the 26-year-old Stokes is now free to play for his country having been charged by prosecutors with an offense that could lead to a jail term if he is convicted.

"Representing my country is one of the greatest things that I've ever been lucky enough to do, walking out on to the field with the England shirt on is a privilege and an honour," Stokes wrote on Twitter. "I'm extremely delighted to be given this opportunity to do this again.

"I can't wait to get back out on a pitch with the 3 Lions on my chest and feeling that pride that we all get and giving everything for the team."

With no date set for his court case, the England and Wales Cricket Board said "it would not be fair, reasonable or proportionate for Ben Stokes to remain unavailable for a further indeterminate period."

Stokes was expected to join England's squad for Twenty20 matches against New Zealand in February, the ECB said.

"ECB fully respects the legal process," the governing body said in a statement, "and the player's intention to defend himself against the charge."

Former England captain Michael Atherton said the ECB's decision "seems illogical" and that "most people would find it hard to square the two positions."

Stokes, one of the world's leading cricketers in all formats, missed England's Ashes series in Australia and the start of the ODI series between the countries because of his provisional suspension by the ECB.

He went to New Zealand for a month to play for Canterbury in domestic limited-overs competitions and was given permission by the England team leadership to enter the draft for the lucrative Indian Premier League at the end of January. He was the costliest player in last year's IPL — Rising Pune Supergiant paid $2.15 million for the powerful allrounder — and ended the competition as its Most Valuable Player.

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